Congregation "Shoova Israel"
South Padre Island, Texas, USA
"Shoova Israel" is a Jewish Orthodox, non-profit organization whose
mission is to intensify the Glory of Heaven throughout the entire region,
preserve the flame that burns within every Jewish heart, strengthen local
Jews in the Torah and commandments and to bring them closer to our
Father in Heaven. Under the auspices of the existing organization is
a Synagogue, a Daycare Center and a Family Purity Mikveh; all through
which dozens of Jews grow stronger every day in the path of Torah and
piety. The congregation hosts evening conferences, Jewish Heritage
lessons, Torah lectures and Daily Prayer Services.
The "Shoova Israel" community is on South Padre Island, Texas
in the USA. The Island is located in South Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico
and is a popular vacation destination for tourist of Mexico, the United
States and from around the world.
Decades ago, a number of Jewish families gathered here and discovered the great potential for commerce
in the area, thus establishing homes and business. But the Jewish soul is not filled solely of matter.
Hence, many of the local Jews felt the necessity to act for the soul, as well as to establish a place in
whichthey can retain the Jewish Identity of the entire Community.
On the Hebrew date of Shevat 5764 (Jan. 2004) a community meeting
was held in the home of member Menashe Amoyal, and together they
took counsel on how to establish a Synagogue- a place to unite the
entire community and preserve its Jewish identity. At this meeting it was
decided that a location should be rented. Community members Yuval
Benbenisti and Refael Asor approached Avi Feema, who was the
owner of 'Plaza' and rented from him a shop measuring 750 ft², that
was to serve as a place of prayer- the Synagogue.
The exciting day was Friday, the 4th of Nissan 5764 (March 26, 2004), in which community members gathered at the Synagogue for the first time. A sense of joy erupted within the heart of the Congregation. However, this great joy was accompanied with a sense of missed opportunity, for on this first Shabbat they were without a Torah Scroll. Pleasantly remembered, member Alon Carmeli, brought the Island's very first Torah Scroll that very same Sunday after the Shabbat. Divine Providence occurred miraculously, when already on the second Shabbat since the Synagogue's opening, the Scroll entered with dignity and honor into the Holy Ark. The matter was so exciting- for hundreds of years this place existed, and for the first time a Holy Torah Scroll was on the Island, right after the opening of the Synagogue. We felt then, that Hashem was sitting in
the Heavens waiting for us to do the first step and from then He
carried us on His shoulders, helping us in every way to establish
a place in which a person would pour out his heart and feelings to
our Father in Heaven. On the second Shabbat since the
establishment of the Synagogue, the Congregation had already
read the weekly Torah portion from the Torah Scroll.
Until then, prayer services had been held in private homes in a
non-orderly manner, so on that Sunday after the second Shabbat,
a grand procession accompanied the Holy Torah Scroll into the
Holy Ark in splendor and glory. Tears of joy were seen in the eyes
of the local Jews as they chanted and danced until they reached the Holy Ark and placed the Torah Scroll within. The procession took place under police escort throughout the city, causing great sanctification to the name of
"Your beginning was trivial…" (Job 8:7)
The verse "your beginning was trivial" appropriately applied to the onset of the congregation's establishment. Pangs of birth of the community accompanied obstacles and pitfalls at the beginning stages. It's sufficient enough to mention that the congregation was directed as a flock without a shepherd and throughout the entire community there was no one who possessed a religious background, who could direct the order of prayers, who had knowledge of Torah laws or observance of the commandments. But it was that exact situation that has contributed to the sprouting of new seeds and growth of a new generation that learns and anticipates knowledge in Torah laws, study of the cantillation marks and prayer run correctly. Pleasantly remembered, during the
community's first steps member Shlomi Zer
served in holiness as cantor, prayer leader and
reader of the Torah scroll, thereby exempting
congregation members of the obligation. After
about four months, member Alon Carmeli
had already joined in on Torah readings,
adding yet another level to the establishment
of the congregation.
As stated of the community's beginning
"your beginning was trivial", so does
the ending verse "your end shall flourish exceedingly" apply as well, for already after a year it became clear that the space was lacking to accommodate all of the worshipers, so an additional 750 ft² shop was rented from member Avi Feema, and the House of G-d expanded twice its size as in the words of the verse: "Hashem, the G-d of your forefathers, will add to you a thousand times yourselves" (Deuteronomy 1:11)
The first Jewish "Sunday School" in South Texas
One mitzvah leads to another mitzvah: our congregation fulfilled the verse "go from strength to strength" (Psalms 84:8) when after some time commenced "Sunday School" which devoted Sundays to the study of Hebrew and Jewish Heritage. As our Sages said (Genesis Rabbah 42): "If there are no kids(young goats), there are no goats" for the youth of today is the next generation of Israelites. We must take notice and praise community members Menashe Amoyal and Yuval Benvenishti, whom dedicated themselves to the task of establishing the study center on Sundays and who were pioneers in teaching Torah and Jewish Heritage on the Island.
Love and Brotherhood
Our Sages said (Numbers Rabbah 21): "There is no vessel than can withhold blessings, other than that of peace" and Congregation "Shoova Israel" knew that the secret to the community's success was love and brotherhood- the peace and friendship that lay among all
community members. For truthfully, all
community organized Sabbaths and Holidays,
weekdays, prayers, festive meals, Cantorials,
and all other events had been managed in
harmony and cooperation among all
With the help of Heaven we merited that the
community developed and prospered "from
strength to strength" and on the month of
Shevat 5765 (Jan. 2005) community member
Eyal Turgeman purchased an additional Torah
Scroll for the congregation. Once again, a grand procession left the home in splendor with the majesty of a king and a sanctification of G-d's name, intensifying the glory of the Torah.
Help from Outside
Once our blessed congregation was established, two Chabad emissaries by the names of Rabbi Eli Leibel and Rabbi Mendl arrived and strengthened the community members as well as organized activities that reached out to all the Jews in the area. These gatherings were very significant to the development of the community and its formation.
In 5765 (2005) Rabbi Eli Leiber was joined by Rabbi Asher Hecht, and together they engaged in spiritual activities for the general public. Presently, Rabbi Leibel serves as Rabbi of a community in Los Angeles, CA. and Rabbi Hecht remained in the area until having established the Chabad Center in McAllen, Texas.
The Vision- A Dream Come True
After some period of time, community members sat and resolved to take a bold and daring risk: to purchase land in full payment. There, shall be built: a Synagogue, a mikveh, and an apartment for the Rabbi and mentor; who shall come and guide the members in our community. "Every man whose heart motivates him" (Exodus 25:2), every community member became affectionately involved to this important project and contributed according to his ability.
And so step by step, layer upon layer, the foundations were built for the synagogue and house of study upon the foundation of Torah and sacred love and faith. On the 23rd of Elul 5768 (Sept. 6, 2007) the Synagogue stood intact, upon blessings of good luck and success! There is no doubt that Holy sparks descended from the Heavens, on the day of the inauguration of the first Orthodox Synagogue to ever rise in the area. The skies danced and stars flickered in delight, as if the inauguration of the Temple in the time of King Solomon, of blessed memory. "[You] gates, lift your heads and be uplifted, [you] everlasting portals, so that the King of Glory may enter". (Psalms 24:7)
Family Purity Mikveh
In addition to building a synagogue on this land,
a ritual bathhouse or mikveh was also built, the
first in the entire region, in which the sanctity
and purity of the daughters of Israel relies. The
Chofetz Chaim z''l said that it is preferable to
build a mikveh than to build a synagogue, for a
mikveh spring is the source of purity for the
Children of Israel and a symbol of the covenant
between us and our Father in Heaven. Thus, it
should be mentioned that this is the only mikveh of such, within a radius of 500 miles.
A Divine Miracle
In all joy and happiness there's sorrow and grief. On the month of Av 5768 (July 2008), the area was hit by a Hurricane that struck with destructive force and caused severe damage to the buildings on the Island. It was a dark period in the memory of all the local residents. However "from the strong came out sweetness" (Judges 14:14), and Divine Providence ordered for every person who has eyes to see how "My faithful legs, You shall protect" (Samuel I 82:9). For The Holy and Blessed One saw the tremendous dedication that the community put into building the synagogue, and blessed be His name, protected the structure of this holy building from all harm, and amazingly, the only building to remain intact without any damage was the House of G-d!
On the month of Elul 5769 (Sept. 2009) the verse "and a three- stranded rope will not quickly be broken"(Ecc. 4:12) was fulfilled, when community member Yaakov Haziza purchased the third Torah Scroll. With splendor and glory the Torah Scroll entered in honor into the Holy Ark, for the sake of His name, with love.
Previous Rabbis and Mentors
Our blessed community has been served in holiness by two Rabbis, whom came to strengthen and inspire the congregation in Torah and Awe of Heaven.
In the month of Av 5767 (Aug. 2007), Rabbi Yaakov Yifrach from Israel arrived to the Island and served as Rabbi and Circumciser.
In the month of Adar 5769 (March 2009), Rabbi Roy Gabai arrived to the Island and labored with great endurance and zing to elevate and strengthen the community in holiness and purity. The community will always remember him, for he served a spiritual guide and mentor who roused the community to return to their heritage and to their Father in Heaven.
In the month of Iyar 5772 (May 2011), the first
religious Jewish daycare center in South Texas
was opened, for the well-being of the Jewish
community -whose mission was to educate the
children in Judaic Studies and holidays. 'Early
childhood education' is the most powerful
thing that remains and creates the world within a
person's heart. Thus we made certain too light
the path for our children beginning from a young
age in order that they may grow into Torah, Judaism
and marriage- with the treasures of a Jewish heritage with them throughout their lives.